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Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas

“He who controls the spice controls the universe”*

 

Spices

 

Spices were among the first engines of globalization, not in the modern sense of a world engulfed by ever-larger corporations but in the ways that we began to become aware, desirous even, of cultures other than our own. Such desire, unchecked, once led to colonialism. After Dutch merchants nearly tripled the price of black pepper, the British countered in 1600 by founding the East India Company, a precursor to modern multinationals and the first step toward the Raj. In the following decades, the Dutch sought a monopoly on cloves, which once had grown nowhere but the tropical islands of Ternate and Tidore in what is today Indonesia, and then in 1652 introduced the scorched-earth policy known as extirpation, felling and burning tens of thousands of clove trees. This was both an ecological disaster and horribly effective: For more than a century, the Dutch kept supplies low and prices high, until a Frenchman (surnamed, in one of history’s inside jokes, Poivre, or “pepper”) arranged a commando operation to smuggle out a few clove-tree seedlings. Among their ultimate destinations were Zanzibar and Pemba, off the coast of East Africa, which until the mid-20th century dominated the world’s clove market.

The craving for spices still brings the risk of exploitation, both economically, as farmers in the developing world see only a sliver of the profits, and in the form of cultural appropriation. In the West, we’re prone to taking what isn’t ours and acting as if we discovered it, conveniently forgetting its history and context. Or else we reduce it to caricature, cooing over turmeric-stained golden lattes while invoking the mystic wisdom of the East. At the same time, a world without borrowing and learning from our neighbors would be pallid and parochial — a world, in effect, without spice…

From turmeric in Nicaragua to cardamom in Guatemala, nonnative ingredients are redefining trade routes and making unexpected connections across lands: “How Spices Have Made, and Unmade, Empires.”

* Frank Herbert, Dune

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As we go deep on dash, we might recall that this is National Buffet Day.  The concept of the buffet arose in mid 17th century France, when gentleman callers would arrive unexpectedly at the homes of ladies they wanted to woo.  It was popularized in 18th century France and quickly spread throughout Europe.  The all-you-can-eat buffet made its restaurant debut in 1946, when it was introduced by Vegas hotel manager Herb MacDonald.  By the mid-1960s, virtually every casino in Las Vegas sported its own variation.  Today, of course, buffets are regularly available not only in any/every Vegas casino, but also in thousands of Indian and Chinese restaurants and ubiquitous chains of “family restaurants.”

buffet source

 

 

 

 

Written by LW

January 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I can understand that a man might go to the gambling table – when he sees that all that lies between himself and death is his last crown”*…

 

Wheel of Fortune, Las Vegas, 1988

Thirty years ago, gambling in the US was limited to three destinations: Reno, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. Jay Wolke photographed the ordinary people who played, lived and worked in the rapidly expanding cities.  Wolke was fascinated by the intersections of people, artifice, architecture and landscape in the US’s three gambling cities…

Girl in car, Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, 1989

Fortune Hunter, Las Vegas, 1988

See more at “Same dream another time: under the skin of 80s Vegas – in pictures” and at Wolke’s site.

* Honoré de Balzac, The Wild Ass’s Skin

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As we consider the odds, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that Cynthia Jay-Brennan won $34,959,458.56 on a Megabucks slot machine at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, the world’s largest payout; it was a one in 7 million chance.  A cocktail waitress at another casino, she had been a Desert Inn regular; on this occasion, she had “invested” $27 in the machine that paid off so handsomely.

Sadly. Jay-Brennan has become synonymous with the “Jackpot Jinx”: a few weeks after her huge haul, she and her sister were driving to a casino out of town when they were hit by a drunk driver, paralyzing her and killing her sister.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

January 26, 2018 at 1:01 am

“A city that was to forge out of steel and blood-red neon its own peculiar wilderness”*…

 

A woman and her work

 

Las Vegas– and the world– lost two icons of neon sign design on April 19th: Betty Willis, seen above with the iconic “Welcome” sign that she designed, and Brian “Buzz” Leming, creator of many of the Strip’s most memorable marquees, passed away within hours of each other.

Leming’s “Hacienda Horse and Rider”

 

Willis and Leming both worked at the Western Sign Company, where they struck up a friendship.  Many of their creations are preserved in the Neon Museum’s outdoor “Boneyard,” where it stores its relics.

The Neon Museum’s Boneyard

 

More at “Two Designers of Las Vegas’s Iconic Neon Signs Died on the Same Day.”

* Nelson Algren (writing about Chicago, though it’s surely apropos of Las Vegas as well)

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As we switch on the lights, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121.  The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Dinner was made for eating, not for talking”*…

 

Still, talking is, more often than not, part of the program.  How to increase the odds that the discussion will be as tasty as the dinner?  Alex Cornell has the key:

larger version here

One of the most complex social situations you will encounter is the 45 seconds that elapse while deciding where to sit for dinner at a restaurant. Your choice should appear natural, unbiased and haphazard if executed properly. Timing is everything.

These 45 seconds determine how enjoyable your next 2 hours will be. Once the pieces start to fall into place and people take their seats, your choices narrow. People sit, seemingly at random, and if you don’t take the appropriate measures, you’re inevitably stuck at the least interesting end of the table.

I have compiled the above infographic to assist you with some of the common configuration patterns…

More at “Musical Chairs.”

* William Makepeace Thackeray

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As we fiddle with our forks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that tables of a different sort became the main event in Nevada, when the economic pressures of the Great Depression (and the opportunity to entertain workers arriving to build Hoover Dam) moved the state legislature to legalize gambling.  But it wasn’t until after World War II, when Bugsy Siegel decided to go (sort of) legit and took control of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, that the Land of Casinos began to glow in the way that, to this day, it does.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 19, 2013 at 1:01 am

The Blessed Estate, Redesigned…

https://i2.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8070/8242853404_d32052d3cd_o.jpg source

James Thurber once suggested that “the most dangerous food is wedding cake.”  Maybe not…

Denny’s has just opened a new flagship location in Las Vegas– replete with wedding chapel.  And to make one’s special day even more special, “America’s Diner” is offering a special wedding menu, topped by “The King Stack” (“King” as in Elvis):  bacon, peanut butter and bananas between two slices of French toast finished off with a bacon vodka chaser.

As Denny’s spokesperson Frances Allen observed, “a normal Denny’s is not going to cut it in Vegas.”  Indeed, this newest outlet is located in the quickly-redeveloping Old Downtown district, where it’s neighbors include a zip line that carries visitors above street-level traffic, a restaurant that holds a Guinness Record for the highest-calorie burger, and what is being billed as the world’s largest gay nightclub.

Viva Las Vegas!

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As we decide that it’s not so important to wear white after all, we might send lethargic birthday greetings to Steven Alexander Wright; he was born on this date in 1955.  An Academy Award winning comedian, actor, and writer, Wright is the king of the deadpan paraprosdokian.

It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it…

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8337/8242853432_6c3eb8149f_o.jpg source

 

Written by LW

December 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

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